Whistle While You Work… If You Feel You Have To!
Many characteristics work together to make an individual a professional person – one of which is upholding standards of ethical behaviour. This means that a professional person does the right thing, and is prepared to challenge any behaviour in others that they perceive as falling short of the mark.
Whistleblowing is not disloyalty. It’s the opposite – it’s loyalty. Someone who blows the whistle can be that employee who’s the most loyal to the firm – the most energetic employee who’s serious about avoiding negative consequences facing their firm from regulators or the law.
When someone takes the time to blow the whistle, they are raising a concern, either in the workplace or externally as a customer or vendor. The whistleblower sees a wrong about to happen, or a danger to someone, or a risk to their organization. Perhaps they see malpractice in how activities are being undertaken, or even a fraud in the worplace. And yes, there’s the potential that whistleblowers can save lives – if it involves the healthcare industry – and protect management reputation in the organization. Whistleblowing is an early warning system for misconduct, wrongdoing or dangerous behaviours.
This early warning system is documented in the ACFEs 2014 Report to the Nations. Globally, whistleblower tips account for 40% of reported frauds, according to the report – possibly prevending potential disaster, or halting an increasingly growing threat in its tracks.
Over the last few years, we’ve seen how the power of whistleblowers can effect change, hold companies accountable and stop corruption. The spotlight on the critical role they could have played is seen in the absence of them in some of the biggest ethical lapses and most devastating frauds in history… (Enron)
While legislation now forces many companies to put whistlebower programs into place, how companies use the programs determines whether they will be successful or not. Getting employees to actually speak up and report when they see signs of wrongdoing can be hard. Many times if wrongdoing is happening in the workplace, there are employees who know it’s happening. Yet perhaps they don’t have confidence, courage, or incentive to speak up. It’s hard to blame them when we’ve seen how devastating repercussions for whistleblowers can be.
But organizations who have taken the time to implement an ethics reporting system generally have done so because they are serious about protecting their employees and business. So it’s in the best interest for organizations to encourage employees to report wrongdoing internally and do it anonymously, and to work towards building a culture where employees feel comfortable about speaking up.
A hotline where employees can come forward anonymously to report any wrongdoing or perceived fraud can give organizations early disclosure on issues and concerns that can be investigated and remedied before the media comes knocking at the door, thereby protecting the organization’s reputation.
Investigate all complaints to determine whether they warrant further investigation or not. Guard against retaliation and ensure employees feel confident that they will be supported for raising concerns about workplace misconduct and not end up in trouble for doing the right thing. Promote your whistleblower progam by training employees regularly, having lunch and learns, and providing personal materials they can keep with them to reference anytime they need to blow the whistle.
So now the question remains, do you implement in internal or external ethics reporting system. You’ve got to think about budget, resources, an implementation plan, training and report review, response and analytics. There’s a lot to consider when getting ready to launch a whistleblower system. Get some of these questions answered by reading the eBook on implementing internal vs. outsourced systems.